By Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.
If you haven’t heard of Reactable yet, basically, it’s a lit-up musical table interface upon which you can place physical objects and manipulate them in order to create and remix music. As you might suspect, there is an app version ($10, iOS or Android) — but that is not what concerns us here, at least not directly.
Reactable teamed with the German DJ and producer Oliver Huntemann, who often performs with the physical version of Reactable, for the first in a series of “Reactable Artist Editions.” Reactable Huntemann ($2, iOS), officially announced on Wednesday, puts one artist’s music into a special version of Reactable, so you can remix — or, rather, recreate — every track on his Paranoia record in what has to be a nearly infinite number of ways (video below).
This app is not a toy. If you have no concept of electronic music production, you will be baffled — at least initially. Even then, Reactable-style music creation offers a bit of a challenge. But once you get a handle on it, the app can be quite rewarding, especially if you like Huntemann and/or techno music.
To use Reactable (and this Oliver Huntemann version of it), you drag elements from the bottom of the screen, connecting them to the central, pulsating dot and to each other. These elements include a wide variety of musical modules — oscillators, samples, loops, a wide range of effects, and even tempo and volume manipulators. You can drag them into the main area on the screen and make connections by dragging your finger, or dragging it across a connection to sever it, while double-tapping any element brings up a menu of parameters for that specific element.
Despite the learning curve, anyone can use this powerful, bespoke software to play the album in its original form — that’s what happens if you do nothing. However, fans of Oliver Huntemann and electronic beatmakers and DJs (amateur to pro-level) will surely thrill to be able to step into his shoes, as it were, to create new versions of his songs in such a powerful way. Those who will get the most out of it are electronic music fans with time, patience, curiosity, and a modicum of knowledge about how electronic music is made.
Whether you just want to jump in and change the Decay on one of Huntemann’s samples or drop in an entirely new effect, the depth to this app is simply staggering. You think a song sounds good? Just wait until you run your favorite bit through a ring modulator and start playing with it as you see fit. Once you get your moves down, you can record your new version to show off to your friends.
“We think that it adds an extra layer to the experience — that is, there will be people interested in just enjoying the content, but for sure there will be a subset of people who will love to remix it,” Reactable sales and marketing manager Carlos Morales told Evolver.fm via email. “The difference between this app and other remix or interactive apps is that you have a starting point, or a guide to follow, and that guide is basically the artist himself. Or, like other remix apps, you can remix freely as well — but with more flexible effects and possibilities. In any case hopefully, Oliver Huntemann fans will enjoy the app. We’ll soon find out.”
When so many apps (and products of all kinds, for that matter) play to the lowest common denominator, it’s heartening to see an artist and developer give music fans so much credit. The result could be a bit daunting, but wha’s wrong with that? We accept the challenge, and you should too.